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UK is fifth free-est nation on the internet

At risk of relegation to 'Partly Free' status

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The UK is the fifth free-est place on the internet, according to a thinktank report. Of those countries assessed, only Estonia, the USA, Germany and Australia offered more internet freeness than Britain.

According to the rating system developed by NGO Freedom House, which counts former HP chief and unsuccessful would-be California politico Carly Fiorina among its guiding lights, Blighty scores 25 points on a scale ranging from zero (total freedom) to 100 (total un-freedom). Estonia, the land of the internet free, scores a 10.

A score of more than 30, in Freedom House's view, bumps a nation out of the "Free" category into the "Partly Free" league. Such nations include Kenya (32), India (36) and Zimbabwe (54).

After 60, a country is rated as "Not Free" in internet terms. Down here in the naughty boys' league we find the usual suspects: Iran, China, Saudi Arabia. Iran is the worst of the countries rated, scoring 89.

The report's authors suggest that official censorship is a growing menace to internet freedom:

One aspect of censorship was evident across the full spectrum of countries studied: the arbitrariness and opacity surrounding decisions to restrict particular content ...

Even in more transparent, democratic environments, censorship decisions are often made by private entities and without public discussion, and appeals processes may be onerous, little known, or nonexistent.

However, the report also notes that many national censorship campaigns are primitive in application and easy to get round, noting that YouTube remained the eighth most popular site in Turkey while under an official block and that Vietnamese users of Facebook doubled in numbers from 1 to 2 million while Facebook was banned by the government there. Even in countries which take internet control more seriously, like Iran and China, people manage to get around the barriers.

The full report can be accessed here. ®

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